James Harris, Vice President of Strategic Markets

Wintrust Mortgage

Starting his career as a Realtor, James Harris always had the goal of becoming a mortgage banker, but he chose to gain a more in-depth perspective of the industry by first learning the real estate side of it.

“I always knew that I was destined to assist individuals in obtaining their dream of homeownership,” says Harris, vice president of strategic markets at Wintrust Mortgage. “I was fortunate enough to assist them on both sides of the business.”

Instrumental in creating an affordable lending product for Wintrust Mortgage at a time when nothing like it existed, Harris has helped a significant number of clients buy homes. He comes from humble beginnings and can often relate to the plight of others. “Although I have been blessed to move on from those beginnings, I never forget where I came from,” he says.

In addition to serving on the board of the Illinois Mortgage Bankers Association, Harris is a former board member of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, a member of the National Association of Minority Mortgage Bankers of America and a candidate for the Certified Mortgage Banker designation through the Mortgage Bankers Association. A multiyear recipient of Wintrust Mortgage’s President’s Circle Award, he has received numerous sales and management performance awards over the course of his 27-year career.

His experience as a Realtor — from building relationships to honing sales techniques — prepared him for a career in mortgage banking. When he was a loan originator, Harris assisted all categories of buyers and investors, always placing their needs above his own. Taking a trusted adviser approach, his first step was to ask clients the proper questions and then listen closely to their answers. To differentiate himself from the competition, he provided customized mortgage financing solutions for each individual, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach. “One of the primary issues that all first-time buyers face is lack of accumulated savings to meet the minimum requirements of many mortgage products,” he says. “Being able to offer an array of down payment assistance programs has bridged that gap for many individuals and families.”

A volunteer for too many nonprofit organizations to mention, Harris regularly gives of his time to make a meaningful impact on the community.

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